20 Pages

Property and Law

WithRichard A. Epstein

Economists believe that property is a providential fact, like the human person. Property is a necessary consequence of the nature of man. Hence, law is born of property, instead of property being born of law. Appropriation is a natural phenomenon, providential and essential to life; and property is only appropriation that labor has made a right. Property, the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor, the right to work, to develop, to exercise one’s faculties, according to one’s own understanding, without the state intervening otherwise than by its protective action—this is what is meant by liberty. Exchange, like property, is a natural right. If, on the contrary, the right to property is a providential fact, prior to all human legislation, and which it is the function of human legislation to safeguard, there is no place for any other system.